How can educators contribute to the sustainability agenda?

The recent African Green Revolution Forum held in Rwanda had me question my contribution to the green agenda. How can teachers, schools and students participate in this noble move to sustainability beyond the geography and social study lessons? Given the vast influence schools have on children and youth, how can we leverage this to inculcate environmentally friendly practices?

Teaching our kids about sustainability and green living is one of the most important things we can do to safeguard the future of humanity and the planet we inhabit. Not only does it teach children how to learn about and investigate their environment, but also to make intelligent, informed decisions about sustainability. Furthermore, learning about the environment is multi-disciplinary, so it allows teachers a rare opportunity to integrate different parts of the curriculum while challenging students to think about the bigger picture. Thankfully, teachers today have a plethora of resources for incorporating sustainability in their lessons and activities.

That being said, it is ridiculous to relegate the responsibility of saving our planet to a few geography and social study teachers alone. This is something that every teacher must actively take part in. Teachers of English can actually take advantage of the passages about energy and environment to point out the benefits of environmentally friendly practices, while at the same time, teaching various aspects of the language. Students can also be involved in independent study groups on going green, a campus sustainability project, a reading list, a research inquiry, or a creative project. Other subjects or courses can also get involved in projects that have students leveraging the specific skills from those courses to preserve the environment.

Another approach to getting students involved and concerned about their environment is to have school campaigns run by students on the benefits of environmentally friendly practices. This is a great way to engage students on sustainability and to spread outreach in the student population through peer-to-peer education. The volunteer sustainability enthusiasts can help drive participation in energy contests, recycling contests, sustainability events, monitor sustainability behaviour, and be ambassadors of the school’s sustainability programme. They can design posters prohibiting the use of disposable plastic water bottles and straws in schools. This way, they become conscious of their environment and will be reluctant to degrade the environment outside school.

To create a solid impact, use the campus as a laboratory. There are so many sustainability practices that can be done on campus that can also be applied in the home, a business, organisation, or a country. If your campus has some land, starting a farm is a great way to teach a variety of hands-on skills and build connections to the community. The engineering minded might study the potential for solar energy installations. A psychology class could conduct a survey of environmental attitudes on campus. A communications class could design a sustainability outreach campaign, and an art class could design visuals to enhance sustainability communication on campus. The possibilities are numerous.  The idea is to have them on board in the green agenda.

Conclusively, schools and educators should leverage the power of their influence to “preach beyond the choir” on green living, sustainability and the need to protect the environment. They should encourage young people to take actions to protect their environment and to be the change for sustainability. It starts in the classroom, expands to the school and fosters change in the community.

 

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